David's Rise to Power-And the Struggle to Keep It: An Examination of the Change Process

By McConkie, Mark L.; Boss, R. Wayne | Public Administration Quarterly, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

David's Rise to Power-And the Struggle to Keep It: An Examination of the Change Process


McConkie, Mark L., Boss, R. Wayne, Public Administration Quarterly


The ancient King David was the most powerful of Israel's kings and has become, over the generations, the symbol of Israel's power. He also appears as one of the most commanding change agents in the ancient world.

Three major achievements stand out. First, he united the tribes of Israel into one nation. He "took over an insignificant nation, and, within a few years, built it into a mighty kingdom ... [U]nder David, the kingdom of Israel, almost overnight, became, not a world empire, but perhaps the most powerful kingdom on earth at the time" (Halley, 1965:186). Given his shepherd-boy beginnings, this is an extraordinary achievement.

Second, David secured undisputed possession of the country. Working as a unique military genius, David subdued the non-Israelite kings and kingdoms in what was then called Canaan, thereby establishing control over Israel's most significant military and merchant routes. Thus, under David, Israel achieved an individual identity never previously enjoyed. From Jerusalem he "controlled all military positions in Israel, all national and local government administrators, the state and tribal tax and revenue collectors, scribes, and other officials" (Galbraith, Ogden, and Skinner, 1986:49-50).

Third, David united all Israelite government under a common, and in this instance religious, value structure. In so doing, he greatly unified the soul of the newly-created nation. He placed the sacred reliquary, the Ark of the Covenant, sometimes called "the Ark of God," on Mount Moriah, thud designating Jerusalem as the central location of religious worship.

The process of unifying the tribes from which Israel was formed, securing undisputed control over the country and of tying Israelite government together with a common religious fiber, placed great power in the hand of this ancient public administrator. At the same time, however, it took a great deal of power for David to achieve all that he did. Certainly, as was the custom among kings in his day, David possessed an almost absolute in many administrative and judicial functions. The formal ruling powers of a king, however, hardly explain his enduring legacy and continued influence throughout the generations. For a thousand years and more, David was seen as a symbol of Israel's triumph and glory.

Given David's impact on the ancient world, some important change-related questions remain: (1) How was David able to engineer the changed he led? (2) Why do some of the new programs he implemented endure to the present moment, and why is it that some do not? and (3) Do the changes he was a part of suggest the existence os enduring principles which might therefore assist modernday change agents with the processes of planned organization change?

THE HISTORIC DAVID

Some have argued that David and his achievements are largely fictions created to sustain belief or to help create identity. Thus, in the view of some, David is merely part of the accumulation of meanings through repeated interpretations and readings out of which Israel as a nation-state grew (Brueggemann, 1999). Or, as Knoppers (1997) expresses it: Saul, David, and Solomon are the material of legend and an historical Israel is a literary fiction. David was, suggests Mays (1986: 143), "[A] literary reality-and may never have existed in any other way."

Suspicions that David never existed, however, or that he is a purely legend have largely been put to rest by: 1) the archaeological discovery at the ancient city of Dan a stone slab dating to 841 B.C. which contained the extra-Biblical reference to the "House of David"; 2) a second ninthcentury B.C. reference to that same "House of David" on a stone called the Mesha Stele; and 3) the reassessment by Kenneth Kitchen, who had earlier written that David was but a literary creation, of a stone dating back to within fifty years of David's estimated death. Other archaeological evidence has also pointed to the existence of others with whom David interacted such as his son, Solomon (Miller, 1998). …

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